What’s the Story with the Child of Prague?

What’s the Story with the Child of Prague?

If you’ve got an Irish female relative over the age of 25, you’ll know all about the Child of Prague. The flamboyantly-dressed statue of the baby Jesus is found in almost every Irish household, and holds our meteorological fate in his tiny plaster-cast hands (along with a blinged-out ball called globus cruciger – thanks Google!). Irish superstition dictates that if you put the Child of Prague statue in the garden, you’ll be blessed with glorious sunshine for your big day, but the problem is that, as a nation, we can’t agree on how this seemingly simple ritual should go!

Child of Prague
Photo by Michelle Prunty Photography via One Fab Day

What are the Different Traditions?

Some argue that the statue must be placed under a bush to prevent rain, others say that it must be beheaded (eek!), and others stipulate that its head must come off without human interference. All we can really do is make an educated guess on how to proceed with this, frankly essential, Irish wedding tradition. So whether you genuinely believe that the Child of Prague will dictate your wedding destiny, you’ll take any chance to indulge in a bit of Irish eccentricity, or you’re just a sucker for a man in a gold hat, welcome to Child of Prague 101!

Child of Prague weddings
Photo by Niamh McCarthy

Where Did the Child of Prague Tradition Come From?

While the idea of placing a gilded baby in your back garden might seem entirely random, it’s only natural that this little guy has become synonymous with Irish weddings, as the very first Child of Prague statue was given as a wedding present. A famous Spanish noblewoman named María Manriquez received the statue of the infant Jesus from her mother when she married Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn in 1556. The statue is now on display in a church in Prague, where it’s said to have performed miracles. At some point in the past 462 years, an enterprising person started producing copies, and an Irish pilgrim must have brought one home, kickstarting a delightful, if unusual craze.

Photo by Renata Dapsyte via One Fab Day

Is the Child of Prague Just An Irish Thing?

Ireland isn’t the only country in which the Child of Prague statue is a religious superstar: the Italians write him letters, in the Czech Republic, they dress him in elaborate robes of different colours on church holidays, while people from the Philippines put him in the clothes of their own profession – a nurse or police uniform, for example. Although Child of Prague statues originated in the Catholic church, these days, they transcend religion in Ireland.

Child of Prague wedding tradition
Photo by Weddings by Kara

What Do I Do With The Child of Prague Statue?

While it’s generally agreed that you place your Child of Prague statue outside the night before the wedding to guarantee good weather, Irish people disagree quite a lot on the details, depending on what part of the country they’re from. We’ll let you make up your own minds, but here are the main theories:

  • He should be placed in the garden under a bush
  • He should be placed in the garden facing the house
  • He should be placed in the garden facing away from the house
  • He should be buried in the garden up to his neck
  • He should be buried upside down in the garden
  • He should be placed outside the door of the church where the couple are getting married
  • He should be placed in the hallway of the bride’s house with a coin or some paper money left underneath as an offering
  • His head should be broken at the neck, and it’s fine to force it off with your hands or by smashing it off a hard object
  • His head should be broken at the neck, but it must not be broken by human hands – it should break naturally when left outside overnight, either by the sharp drop in temperature, or by the wind blowing it over
  • His head should be broken at the neck, but it must be glued back on
  • The statue must be a gift for it to work
Photo by Louise Scott Photography

Where Do I Get a Child of Prague Statue?

You can of course order a statue online from shops like Veritas and Etsy. But if you need a Child of Prague statue in a hurry, someone in your extended family has definitely already got one, and you can often find them in second-hand stores.

Child of Prague weddings
Photo by Lynda McCormack

How Else Can I Incorporate The Child of Prague Into My Wedding?

You could always plan a pre-wedding to include a trip to Clooneyquinn, Co Roscommon, where Offaly man Richard Cullen has purchased a non-functioning Eircom phone box and placed a Child of Prague statue inside. Go say Hi!

Of course, if you don’t want to go to all that trouble, you could simply make sure your wedding photographer gets a snap of the stylish statue on the morning of your wedding.

Check out our complete list on Irish wedding traditions here

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